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The Grand Canyon

The Grand Canyon

There may be seven Natural Wonders of the World, but one in particular is near and dear to my heart: The Grand Canyon. While often referred to as “the big hole in the ground” (something I have said myself), the Grand Canyon is much more than that.

This wonder began forming in ancient times on what is now referred to as the Colorado Plateau. The canyon is one of, if not the most studied geological areas on the face of the earth because it has three of the four geologic eras contained in its massive layered history. Its features include massive canyons, caves, and several major ecological systems.

The Grand Canyon today spans 277 miles (446km) and has an average depth of 4000 feet (1219m). At its deepest, the canyon drops 6000 feet (1829m) below the rim and 15 miles (24km) of distance between the South and North Rims.

Snow

Snow

The Grand Canyon is a World Heritage Site, but more importantly it stands as one of the crown jewels in the National Park System. It was first protected in 1893 as a Forest Reserve and later as a National Monument. On 26 February 1919 it achieved National Park Status, three years after the creation of the National Park Service. Today Grand Canyon National Park receives close to five million visitors each year – a far cry from the annual visitation of 44,173 it received in 1919.

As Grand Canyon National Park turns 90, I’m reminded of my first trip to this majestic place. It was in the summer of the late 1970s. My family and I drove up to the rim and toured the various outlooks. I remember not being impressed; after all, it was a big hole. Sure it had stunning geological features, but there was nothing that resonated with me.

But something kept drawing me back to the South Rim, and later the North Rim. Something compelled me look deeper into this natural resource.

I began studying the history of the Canyon – the people behind it. I also began hiking the trails. It was here that I first began to realize how special the Canyon was. In my opinion, one cannot really fathom the beauty or scope of the Grand Canyon until you drop below the rim. I don’t mean hiking to the bottom and up (something that is definitely an awesome adventure), but rather hiking in a quarter mile from the trailhead and seeing both the rim and the Colorado.

When you see both, the feeling hits you as to how small you really are.

If you ever get the chance to visit Northern Arizona, I hope you’ll take the opportunity to visit this natural wonder. Not only taking in the beauty, but also taking advantage of the artistry and educational programs developed by the Park Service. There are many things that make the Grand Canyon beautiful, perhaps the greatest are those five million that arrive each year.

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Written by Steve Miller

February 11, 2009 at 2:30 pm

Posted in Travel

Tagged with , ,

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